Better Conversations (Part 2 of 2)
This week, we’re sharing tips on how to open the door to better conversations with other men, even when you feel awkward or unsure. Why does it matter? They’re the building blocks of better friendships that make us stronger, happier, and more like Christ.
By the Man in the Mirror Team
Jesus always starts conversations with ease. He sits in the Temple as a young man and asks questions; He approaches strangers and asks provocative questions. Even when He is thirsty and sitting at a well, He strikes up a conversation.
But Jesus always has meaningful conversations. He turns casual comments or asides into lessons, walks along the road into a time to discuss theology, and meals into deep reflections.
Modern men get into meaningful conversations less frequently.
Most of us want to talk about the important issues and details of our lives. We want to talk about our faith, about our fears—about the things Jesus has answers for. And we need to. But it can be difficult, or even awkward, to know how to start.
Starting Point: How to Open Better Conversations
Men need to lend each other a hand in life. We have experience and wisdom to share, as well as a lot of laughs to share together. As Brett wrote about last week, we desire better male friendships.
But we must start somewhere. Here are some suggestions that can help.
Start SmallMost men want to talk about the important issues of life. Our faith, our fears—about the things Jesus has answers for.Click To Tweet
It’s amazing how simple comments—passing words—can get the ball rolling to better conversation. As men, there’s often a natural progression to opening up to each other. Going in for a marathon of serious intentions from the start can be counterproductive. In fact, maybe the worst thing you could do would be to call an acquaintance or casual friend and ask him to schedule a heart-to-heart talk with you.
Instead, start small. Grab a minute or a meal together and ease into real conversation about a specific real area of life. A small but meaningful question—”You seem stressed, how you doing?”—can express concern to a brother who may need to get stuff off his chest. (Here is a short article on the art of listening for when he does open up.)
Start with Yourself
Of course, even if you start with small questions or prompts, men may not want to open up first. If you sense this, it is best to take the lead by offering up what’s on your heart and mind, without the need for a response. Something as simple as, “I’m ok, feeling a little stressed lately” in passing to a friend is often enough to signal that he can share, too. Be the one who leads with vulnerability.
If you start small and lead by example, the reality is you’ll begin to have more meaningful conversation with most men. It may initially be small or brief, but most men will be open to a real conversation about real life.
The last suggestion is to always keep things loose, flexibly responding to changing circumstances, social cues, and environments. Don’t force it. It can be exhausting if you bring up the same deep questions every week with someone in the hallway before church.
Keep it loose. Sometimes you go there with a guy. Other times you talk about sports or kids or everyday things. The point is that deeper conversation should happen along the way; it does not have to be the only way in which we relate to one another.
Measuring Our Lives Together
There are several immediate benefits to opening up to a trusted friend—for example, to release pressure.
But there is another layer to deep conversation that is also crucial for us as men: the opportunity to measure our lives—particularly our walk with Christ—in view of others.
By measuring, I don’t mean judging or competing. The Bible is clear that we are not supposed to measure ourselves against each other in terms of our good works. We are to, as Paul said, boast only in Christ, not ourselves.
But discipleship in isolation is an oxymoron. And the fact is, a lot of men today feel that they have no way to measure or make sense of the realities and struggles they are facing in their faith.Discipleship in isolation is an oxymoron.Click To Tweet
So, while we do not compare our faith or righteousness to each other, we can share and compare our burdens, our brokenness, our places that need healing—even the best practices that have shaped us. We can learn from each other’s mistakes, encourage each other, and emulate each other’s strengths in order to grow as disciples.
For younger men especially, there is a need to examine their life with someone who can help illuminate the path they’re walking, because they’ve been there before. For example, a man might think he has only a “small problem” with porn.
On his own, he feels the problem is manageable. But when he connects with an older man, shares his struggles, and gets a more experienced perspective—he sees that the issues he’s wrestling with go deeper than he realized, and they will require a different response than trying to “manage it” on his own.
Yes, we can sharpen one another—iron on iron—by focusing on our strengths and talents, to an extent. But we must also realize that we desperately need sharpening in the weakest areas of our lives. The areas where we are bitter, afraid, angry, lonely, or lost. The areas we rarely, if ever, share with another man.
To grow as much as we can by assessing and reflecting on our lives, we must look at our issues together. The fear that we are alone with our problems—or that something is seriously wrong with us because we have problems—is dispelled when men share life together.
THE BIG IDEA: We are not alone; God has given us each other.
We are so committed to the idea of men sharing life together that we are developing a series of resources that can aid you in your walk together. The first journal of the series is now available: Ritual – Assessment, sold as a set of two.
You can invite any man of any age at any point in his faith journey to go through the journal with you. But try to pick someone who—like you—is interested in cultivating a deeper experience of friendship and self-examination.
Each of the five sections in the journal is designed to help you reflect honestly on your own in some key areas of your life, and includes quotes to help you focus, short reflections, and simple writing prompts. Then you meet up with the man who has committed to going through Ritual with you to talk through that section together.
Our hope is that this process provides you with personal growth, opportunity to share how your faith impacts you, better conversations, and meaningful friendship.